2017/2018 Cholera Outbreak Response Media Briefing

Photo credit: David Phiri
Lusaka May 17……………………The Ministry of Health on 17 May 2018 briefed the media and other key stakeholders about the 2017/2018 cholera outbreak response and the Government of Zambia next steps in cholera control. In the build-up to the 71stWorld Health Assembly set to take place in Geneva Switzerland from 21 to 26 May Dr Chitalu Chilufya the Minister of Health affirmed that the resolution to eliminate cholera globally by the year 2030 will be passed sponsored by Zambia.
The briefing received support from key ministries that were part of the current response with presence of ministers of local government, water development, sanitation and environmental protection and fisheries and livestock. Key partners represented were the Director of the Zambia National Public Health Institute and World Health Organization Country representative in Zambia.
Zambia has developed a national strategy to eliminate cholera by 2025 through the implementation of both short and long- term plans. These plans include upgrading slums and peri-urban areas, strengthening of local government, enhancing capacity of the water utility companies as well as implementing the “Health in all” agenda. Further plans will be escalating social mobilization and risk communication to effect positive behavioral change, reinforce surveillance, epidemic preparedness and response capacities.  A remarkable milestone is that the government has rolled out the ‘Keep Zambia Clean, Green and Health’ campaign that will be implemented starting 26 May 2018. The campaign will involve all Lusaka residents in a mass clean-up of the city every saturday morning between 08:00 and 11:00hrs and no other activities and businesses will be allowed to operate.
“With the drastic reduction in number of cases in Lusaka, the cholera outbreak will be declared over in the next 14 days,” said Dr Chitalu Chilufya. Zambia is recovering from a close to eight months outbreak where about 5,900 cases were reported and 114 lives lost. This is however not the first cholera outbreak in Zambia, so far, 29 Cholera outbreaks have occurred with the first recorded in 1977. The outbreaks have varied in magnitude from 14 to 13,500 cases and Case Fatality Rate (CFR) ranging from 0.5% to 9.3%. Four outbreaks involving more than 10,000 cases occurred in 1991, 1992, 1999 and 2004.
Speaking during the media briefing the minister underscored that the 2017/2018 outbreak had the government provide unreserved support. “I must emphasise that although these figures are high, considering the magnitude and spread of the disease in Lusaka, the situation could have been graver,” he said. Of notable interest I that 90% of the resources mobilized, translating to ZMW129,000,000 in the response were government funds released by treasury.
The remarkable leadership support of the President of the Republic of Zambia His Excellency Mr. Edgar Chagwa Lungu who appointed a Committee of Cabinet Ministers to oversee and provide guidance to the response cannot be overemphasized. Further, a multi-sectoral technical committee led by the Zambia National Public Health Institute (ZNPHI) provided technical oversight of the response using the Incident Management System (IMS).
Cooperating partners like WHO, U.S Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (U.S CDC), Japan International Cooperating Agency (JICA), Africa Centres for Disease Control and Prevention (Africa CDC) as well as the private sector are on the frontline in the mitigation efforts.
Inadequate access to clean and safe water, poor sanitation in most households, unsanitary conditions in trading places, contaminated food, poor hygiene practices and poor solid waste management were the main risk factors of the outbreak. Even at the tail end of the epidemic the government resolves to remain alert maintain high levels of response with regards to providing clean and safe water, clean environments and focused health education among members of the public.
The robust multi-sectorial response plan by the government will still remain active as the country moves towards elimination of cholera. The Government affirms the vision of a country and global perspective in which cholera no longer presents a threat to public health and subscribes the global cholera control strategy launched by the Global Task Force on Cholera Control(GTFCC), the ‘Ending Cholera: A Roadmap to 2030’. This strategy commits affected countries, technical partners, and donors to reduce cholera deaths by 90 percent and eliminate cholera transmission in as many as 20 countries by 2030.
According to WHO cholera remains a global threat to humanity, affecting more than 51 countries worldwide. The disease annually, affects about 2.9 million people with 95,000 deaths are reported.
About the World Health Assembly
The World Health Assembly is the decision-making body of the WHO. It is attended by delegations from all WHO Member States and focuses on a specific health agenda prepared by the Executive Board. The main functions of the World Health Assembly are to determine the policies of the Organization, supervise financial policies, and review and approve the proposed programme budget.